To my friends and family who are (or were) teachers: I need your assistance. But first, I will give a bit of background for context. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature with a minor in Education. I sometimes view myself as a “sell-out” who chose the corporate ladder over teaching America’s future. But I have forever been and always will be fascinated by education, curriculum and the public policies that surround both.
Today I was part of a discussion where education and the US labor force were examined. People were talking about how students are spending too much money on a college education, coming out with a great deal of debt, having to take low paying jobs and never being able to make those college payments. It was suggested that more people should learn trades instead of going to college because they wouldn’t have to spend the money, they would get paid more in their jobs and they would therefore help the labor market.
This proposal struck a dissonant chord with me because it was very much presented as an either/or scenario. I have always been a proponent of an education which is broad-based, non-specific and liberal arts in nature. I understand that this can cause an economic problem. But must we base our educational foundations strictly on the needs of the job market? My personal experience has been that one can receive a liberal-arts education and learn the basics of a job through on-the-job training. I also am thinking that learning trade-specific activities, during that liberal arts education, would produce exceptional human beings at graduation.
I am fully aware that I experienced an exceptional liberal arts education during my college years. But I am also acutely cognizant that I came out of college non-functional in many facets of real life. Throughout all of my education, I never learned how to balance a checkbook, how to cook a nutritious meal, how to buy a car, how to fix basic car issues, how to put hammer and nail to wood, how to survive a night in the wilderness, basic self-defense or the things that are so essential to a successful human life. Beyond that, I didn’t receive training on the sixteen personality types and how they interact with one another until well into my leadership career. Those lessons would have helped me immensely as early as junior high.
I understand that my question proposes a scenario which is quite impractical. I know that to teach all of these subjects would probably require 7 days per week in school during 12 months straight. I understand rewriting the American curriculum in totality is an ambitious undertaking. But it has been a while since I’ve looked at curriculum studies and I am very interested in comments on these questions, by both educators and non-educators alike. Am I too much a dreamer? Is it really impossible to develop both a trade-based, everyday skills-based and a humanities-based curriculum all together? What if we start earlier, as early as grade school perhaps? Thoughts and comments are truly welcome.